COP26 might be over, but the climate crisis is still real for farmers overseas, say Fairtrade APPG co-chairs

* Opinion piece written by Holly Lynch MP and Jason McCartney MP, co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fairtrade.

The COP26 summit was a summit like no other. Delayed by a year due to the pandemic, the hopes, expectations – and stakes – for the event to deliver the critical commitments needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees were huge. So how did COP26 do, and what’s next in 2022? We’ve been looking at this vital issue together, as members of the Fairtrade All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

We’ve heard how the impact of climate change is already hitting Fairtrade farmers. Bismark Kpabitey, a cocoa farmer from the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana, attended COP26 on behalf of Fairtrade Africa. He told us and other Members of Parliament about recent damage caused by extreme temperatures. “This year is going to be the worst year for cocoa we have ever had. We will have no food, no yield, how will we continue to produce and provide for our families?” he said.

So, the need to prevent the loss of livelihoods in climate-vulnerable farming communities in low-income countries is urgent. We need to remember that as well as being bad news for farmers such as Bismark, he and millions of others like him around the world grow much of our food, like cocoa, bananas, coffee and sugar. If changing weather makes their job harder, it’s also bad news for us in the UK, if it leads to shortages or higher prices.

What was the outcome? Commitments, deals and promises

First, the good news from the summit. The Glasgow Climate Pact, a binding intergovernmental agreement, included a genuinely historic commitment to “phase down” coal use: the first time such a commitment has been made. Elsewhere the pact included commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, while the timetable for providing “adaptation finance” (funding to help lower income countries adapt to changing weather) tightened up to “within 24 months”.

New commitments to combat deforestation are also welcome, particularly for the farmers and workers in low-income countries that Fairtrade works to support, including the announcement of a £500m new fund. Deforestation is fuelled by poverty and low incomes, among other factors, and it is vital that smallholder farmers are able to access these funds. There’s also £56m announced for a ‘Just Rural Transition’ fund. As MPs we will be looking at the anti-deforestation measures which form part of the Environment Bill in Parliament in 2022.

However, the worrying side of the story is that we’re not going fast enough. Despite the new promises in Glasgow, the world is still heading for 2.4 degrees of warming. That would be disastrous for Bismark, for farmers like him around the world, and for us all. Governments around the world, and here in the UK, need to keep up the hard work ahead of the next climate summit, COP27, which will be held in Egypt.

Bismark told us: “I was at COP26 to tell my story, to tell world leaders what it’s like for us producers. Looking to next year, we need something to happen on the ground so that COP27… can be a testimony.”

What about business?

We have also been hearing from businesses, and seen them make welcome commitments. Fairtrade businesses including Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Ben & Jerry’s signed a pledge of support for Fairtrade farmers, committing to bring down emissions and support farmers with adaptation. There were big commitments in the shipping and transport industries, progress in which will be vital to tackling the true cost of our ‘imported emissions’ from overseas. Aviation and shipping contributes 10 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, so the Government’s commitment to include aviation and shipping in its Carbon Budget calculations is a vital step, and we hope that other countries will follow suit.

We heard from Co-op – a Fairtrade retailer – about their Climate 10 Point Plan released earlier this year, in which they commit to reducing carbon emissions in supply chains and helping suppliers on the front-line of the crisis: one of a number of retailers who made new commitments this year, including a new long-term commitment and investment in partnership with Fairtrade Africa.

Speaking to the Fairtrade APPG, Emily Pearce, Senior Sustainable Sourcing and International Development Manager at Co-op, said: “Here at Co-op we have committed to be a net zero business by 2040… In launching our Climate 10 Point Plan we have always clear about the need for climate justice, for the sake of the communities at the front line of the climate crisis… Smallholders are contributing the least to the climate crisis, yet experiencing the worst impacts. This is a moral outrage and risk to global food security. We have to recognise the need to work for a fair and just transition for people and planet.” Emily called on businesses to do their part, adding: “As for world leaders, so for business leaders. Let’s go from promises to action.”

So, what next for climate after COP26?

For the sake of farmers like Bismark, we cannot afford to sit back. The UK holds the presidency of the COP until the end of 2022, so this coming year must be one of action. Governments have agreed to come back with improved emissions targets (known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs). We need to keep the pressure on and make sure this happens. COP26 has ignited a groundswell of movement and passion for change amongst people from all sides of politics, and we will be playing our part in the Fairtrade APPG.

As co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Fairtrade, we are calling for ‘climate justice’ for Fairtrade farmers and workers over 2022. We want to see governments agree investment which helps farmers adapt to and mitigate the effects of changing weather. The promise made to deliver $100 billion in climate finance must be met. And of course, we must cut emissions back to safe levels, fast. As MPs we will be doing whatever we can in Parliament. Bismark is playing his part, and we must do ours.